Blogger Outreach… what’s that all about? Well, I’ve asked a few link building and online PR specialists to help me explain the process and hopefully offer some solid advice from the front line.
In the Post-Penguin wilderness, the importance of editorial links from prominent web sources has increased. One of the ways in which you can obtain “high quality” links for your website is to have your content or product featured by popular bloggers.
There are over 181 million blogs out there and that simply means there are blogs for every niche, industry and topic – even the most “boring ones” like SEO ;). Just like traditional media, bloggers can be a great resource for helping to spread the word about your business, but unlike traditional media, they generally have a more personal and influential relationship with their readership. The following statistics from Technorati’s 2011 State of the Blogosphere illustrate the reach and influence of bloggers, as well as their relationships with brands.
- 38% of bloggers blog about brands that they love or hate
- 65% of bloggers follow brands on social media
- The majority of bloggers feel that bloggers are treated less professionally by brand reps compared to traditional media
As you can imagine the value of a mention from a popular blogger goes beyond the obvious link metrics and referral traffic but has a greater value in building up the recognition of your brand as an authority. The sad thing is that all too often link builders and PR’s are just sending out unsolicited emails and press releases to bloggers. They are simply playing a numbers game in the hope that some poor blogger is scratching around for something to write about that week and might write about their client, which just plain and simply means you are F#$&ing doing it wrong.
What techniques work well with Blogger Outreach?
Earlier this year John Doherty was mentioned in an article by Wired but they did not link to his site, a quick email to the blogger resulted in a website with a high domain authority linking back to John. This goes to show you how important it is to use tools such as Google Alerts to monitor mentions of your brand online so you can rectify errors and continue to build relationships with online influencers.
Start out by finding which bloggers are following you on Social Media and reach out to them. Have they re-tweeted your latest blog post or wrote about you and not linked back to your site?
I have personally had success with lots of different methods in getting my clients featured in popular blogs online – there is no secret sauce but it’s quite simple make friends and offer something valuable. Techniques I have used recently include guest blogging, competitions, infographics, product reviews and offering technical assistance such as malware reporting or broken link building.
Blogger Outreach Q&A with the Experts
Rather than me just writing up all my favourite tips in which to get bloggers to feature your content I decided to invite some awesome folks to answer a few commonly asked outreach questions on my blog for you my lovely readers.
1. What are your essential “pre-qualifiers” to look out for before reaching out to a blogger?
Aimee: For B2B clients I make sure the blog’s topic is relevant to the company’s (brand) readership/customers. I make sure the blog content is in line with the buyer personas outlined and their marketing journey, usually ask or look for statistics on readership, unique visitors and SERP positioning for relevant keywords, occasionally I will look at Page Rank but this is not usually the highest determinant. In the past where data is not available I have told clients to use Alexa as a very rough indicator on blog readership and performance (not to be trusted too much though). Other things to consider – the size of the blogs social media community – perhaps use something like Klout as an indicator. I mainly look at profile reach and visibility on FB and Twitter.
I also look for partnership opportunities - i.e. can we access their email list and social media community as part of the agreement.
Peter:I try to keep this process short and quick, because I think it’s important to manually outreach to every blog; however, you still have to maximize the number of blogs you outreach to.
First off, I absolutely refuse to work with Mommy Bloggers They always ask for compensation and their blogs are riddled with ads. Other than that, I mainly care about relevancy. I really do very little “pre-qualification” before outreach. I usually do it after I get a response. The response rate from bloggers can be very low for some niches; however closing an agreement is easy after the initial response. Because of this I do my sifting later on. I judge my qualifications based on the number of response I receive. My “requirements” are lower when I only receive a few responses; however it’s mainly based off of frequency of posts, legitimacy, blog followers, and social presence.
James: It depends on the campaign I am working on. For example if the client is looking to secure some high-end links (to build the trust of their domain) then we may be really selective and put in place all sorts of pre-qualifiers however if a client is looking to blanket an industry in a short space of time and be really visible then we may drop the criteria a little (maintaining a certain standard) so as to cover all bases.
I collated a lot of the factors I/we as a company look at in my recent SEOmoz post http://www.seomoz.org/blog/how-to-evaluate-guest-post-opportunities
Tadeusz: Whenever I reach out to bloggers I try to behave like a reader would do. So I try to forget that I’m an SEO or doing the outreach for SEO reasons. So I look at the actual blog asking myself a few questions:
- Would I like to read it or do my eyes already hurt from looking at it?
- Are real people behind this or is this an anonymous content mill run by a company which publishes everything as “admin”?
- Is this blog around for a while aka established and does it publish fresh content regularly/recently?
- Has the blogger actually covered exactly what I look after, not only the broad topic?
- Is the post genuine or only written in order to generate affiliate revenue?
- Is this blogger actually competing with my client directly?
Rae: The language that a blogger frequently uses is elemental to how I’m going to approach them. Obviously, jargon varies from niche to niche, and it shows authenticity if you are not only speaking in perfect English, but are speaking “their language”. When possible, I look for character clues. Is this blogger very conservative? Do they seem relaxed and laid back? Do they appreciate humor? You have to take their cues. One of my co-workers wrote a post about the psychology of online interaction to this effect. It’s simply more time-efficient than sending out a bunch of white-bread form letters no one’s going to pay any mind to.
Jason: We usually look out for blogs that can help achieve the campaign’s both short and long term objectives, in terms of link building and brand marketing perspectives, which we can easily evaluate through this blog prospecting method(as the list generated by this method includes domain-level and link metrics).
In identifying blogs/bloggers to reach out to, we mostly look out for these aspects of the blog:
- Readership/Community – which can be determined through the site/blog’s number of subscribers, social follower base, engagement (number of comments on each post), traffic value (can be measured through Alexa, Compete.com or SEMRush) and the consistency in publishing content.
- Visuals/Web Design – we highly prioritize this part of prospect assessment, as it’s a great indicator of longevity of the value of the link/brand exposure that will be acquired, given that blogs that invest on their site’s web design are the ones who will most likely be around for a while and have the potential to continuously grow their readership. So even they don’t have the desired metrics (PR/DA) you’re looking for link building purposes, you can still somehow be assured that your link will not go to waste (you’ll just have to wait for it to age).
Wayne:I suppose it comes down to what you are reaching out for – for links, for product giveaways, for reviews, just for links?? I take a whole bunch of factors into consideration and to be honest the more you collect the better for in the future. What I mean by this is that you may find a prospect but decide not to use them for this project because they don’t match the criteria you have set for this particular client or website. That doesn’t mean that you won’t need them in the future though…
In no particular order (because priorities change based on the project)…
Link metrics – Although they aren’t as important as they were a few years ago you cannot afford to ignore PR and mozRank. Apart they both have issues but together they paint a fuller picture of importance, popularity and trust. I also quite like the new metrics from Majestic but have yet to figure these in to my process.
Number of incoming links is important – but needs a little more investigation in the post Penguin world.
Social validation of a blog – this tends to be a note on the file – have they been featured in major publication? Do they write for big blogs in the niche. These are signals of trust and signals of trust (generally) equate to a great blogger to consider.
Social activity - depends on the blog but this could be number of followers on twitter, fans on Facebook (these are going to more important if you are looking for reviews or product giveaways). You may want to count +1′s and one of my favourites is comments on the blog posts – these are indicators of an active audience – one that will spread your message further than a site with a PR of 5 but with no social activity. Think beyond the SEO metrics for bigger impact – how many subscribers do they have for their RSS feed?
If you set up a system for capturing as much information as possible you can create yourself a database of prospects that can be used over different projects – the more detail you have will help you on different outreach projects in the future.
2. Popular Bloggers are very busy people and receive lots of emails every day, what have you done in order to make your pitch standout from the crowd?
Aimee: I have a small list of bloggers across a few key sectors digital, tech, health, lifestyle and fitness that I work with regularly. I keep in touch with them outside of campaigns and find out how I can help them. I also actively converse with them on social media twitter/FB etc outside of campaigns. If pitching a story I always consider the benefit to their readership or blog. For example offering them a like for like partnership with the brand I am working with.
Peter: Popular bloggers require a much different approach than other bloggers. This requires some sort of relationship building. It could be having a small conversation with them on twitter, commenting on their blog, or even asking them a question over email instead of pitching to them.
After you’ve built at least some sort of relationship with them, it’s much easier to approach them with your request. However, when doing this you should make the content more focused on that bloggers readers and not on SEO value.
James:When we pitch popular bloggers or publishers of big name websites, we try hard to “speak the language” of the individual by researching around them to try and understand what motivates them, what they like to write about and just try to get an idea about the individual based on their social network interactions. For example if it is clear that they have been overworked recently following a well-earned holiday or something like that, we would try to use this information (without appearing like a stalker) to explain how we might be able to lighten their load this week and give them a day off blogging.
So we don’t really do anything crazy or standout-ish but rather just focus on the solid value that we (and the client) can offer.
Tadeusz: I try not to contact the “stars” who don’t have the time to react but in case I do I simply focus on being as concise and to the point as possible while adding my value proposition to the e-mail subject line. Sometimes it can also help to find out which medium is the favourite channel for a particular person: e-mail, Facebook, Twitter? Then approach the person right where s/he prefers to get contacted.
Rae: Subject lines are certainly the best, briefest way to intrigue a blogger into reading your email, but they can be tricky. A lot of spammers go overboard with subject lines. As Ron Forseth of Outreach Media Group said, “the subject line is to email as the envelope is to direct mail.” His post about subject lines summarizes why focused subject lines are more effective.
Jason: Have a valid reason for contact. The most important thing that should always be on the top of mind when it comes to outreach is the valuebeing offered to the receiving end, because having something of high value is the reason why they’ll respond to it in the first place. Start by asking yourself first: are you really offering something valuable, useful or unique to them or to their followers/readers?
A few months ago, I published a post that lists other alternative approaches for blogger outreach, I guess that list can help people think more out-of-the-box in innovating their outreach methods.
Wayne:I went on a PR training day a few years back and one of things that was discussed in detail (and answered by two very active journalists) was what makes them open certain emails. What the journalists were speaking about was what made them open certain emails and just trash others without even bothering to look at them. It turns out that one of the journalists like subject lines that are descriptive, whilst the other liked subject lines that were a little abstract and teased him.
So what do we take away from this? The fact that no matter how much data we have you can’t say “including XX in a subject line will improve your chances” or “taking XX approach will work better”.
What makes the most sense (and it has been written about tons of times before) is that they are more likely to open the initial email if they know or have heard of you – take the time to craft a relationship before jumping in head first. I have also found that if you create relationships with bloggers in quite general niches then you can use them for multiple projects – mommy bloggers are a good example.
Oh, and if you have time to take a course in Psychology you should do that because it will increase the chances of your pitch being successful - if you didn’t know Derren Brown kicks ass at blogger outreach.
3. Which tools do you like to use to manage or assist you with your outreach projects?
Peter: I actually use a very minimal amount of tools. I like to limit automation as much as possible, because it liquidates the personal “feel” to your approach. However, I’ve been very impressed by BuzzStream. I haven’t gotten a chance to fully embrace it yet, but being able to find and manage a vast amount of bloggers is incredibly helpful. It also keeps track of communication done through various channels to each blogger. This is a life saver if you’re doing large scale outreach.
Another tool I find incredibly helpful is Boomerang. Boomerang will give you a reminder if someone didn’t respond to an email you sent out, which gives you a chance to follow up. Another feature is being able to schedule your outgoing emails. This is especially useful if you’re doing outreach overseas, allowing you to send an email out during their business hours.
James: I don’t use many tools mainly Raven Tools, Google Docs and Boomerang
Tadeusz: I’m very old school so I try to use as simple “tools” as possible. So I will use text files for a start. LinkedIn may be of help. I sometimes use Twitter lists. For bigger and long term projects I’d recommend a social CRM tool like NimbleCRM. Lately I’ve been also playing around with Engag.io
It’s not about the tools though. Finding the blogs is easy, you just need Google. E-mail is still the way of choice to contact strangers.
Rae:Some people I work with use spreadsheets as vast and wide as a fjord, I swear. I have nothing against spreadsheets; I rather adore them, but I prefer to write down the names of sites I’ve contacted. Something about that action, rather than hitting ctr+c ctr+v, helps me remember sites I’ve already reached out to, so I don’t step all over myself. I’m not comfortable if I don’t have a notebook and pen in front of me while I work (or anywhere, really.) Silly, huh?
I’m incredibly fond of Rapportive in social prospecting. I’ve been using it for a couple of years and it really makes the communications feel more real. You can only be so personal in text and from behind a screen, but seeing a bloggers’ profile image, their recent tweets, and their other works makes them so much more 3D. Outreach is all about “the conversation” (such a cliché, I’m sorry I even brought it up!) and Rapportive brings so much to the table.
Jason: Our team is not that big on tools, but here are some that we use:
- Google Docs – to organize the phases of outreach and level of priorities in real-time, especially for projects that will require more than 2 outreach specialists (to lessen the chances of contacting a prospect twice).
- Boomerang and Rapportive for Gmail
- Ahrefs.com – which can be used to find more prospects from competitors or from the site itself (as it’s easier to contact blogs who have already linked to you in the past).
- SEOQuake – we use the SERP overlay feature to scrape Google’s search results for blog prospects (you’ll just need to be smart with your queries to get the most out of your prospecting efforts)
Aimee: I mainly use media databases / Twitter / Radian 6 / Gorkana / Google blog search and Klout.
Wayne:There are a number of tools that I use but I guess you have to do what suits your budget and your processes.
- Prospecting - advanced operators, Link Prospector, Blogdash, MyBlogGuest, Blogger LinkUp, followerwonk, Buzzstream prospector, Raven Link Finder
- Collecting the ‘pre-qualifiers’ – Buzzstream does most of this for me with a bit of interference and and customisation
- Organising – Buzzstream, Excel
- Outreach – Buzzstream, Rapportive, Boomerang
- Reporting it all back to the client – Raven Tools
4. What is the most important piece of advice you could ever give to someone starting out with a blogger outreach campaign?
Aimee: Be smart and you can get links and great PR coverage! I used to work within digital and with SEO campaigns,where the focus was on link building and not quality content – bloggers will hate you for taking this approach and you will not only risk damaging the brand reputation but it is actually an ineffective use of your company resources.
Bloggers are savvy and don’t want to detriment their own blog by giving away free links. If you want links then be smart – for example offer the blogger access to an exclusive competition on your website where there will need to be a link included, or host a competition on their site which requires the user to visit your site to find information/download a voucher etc. The key is integration.
Peter: Don’t mention your client or company in the first email and always be as nice as possible. Lately, the word “SEO” has been leaving a bad taste in some bloggers mouths and they can get unreasonably upset when they think you’re reaching out with “SEO intent”. If you happen to contact one of these bloggers and they know what company you’re working for, they can end up ranting about it on their blog. This can be a reputation nightmare if that blogger is influential in your industry.
James: Try to avoid getting overwhelmed… start small and branch out. Yes, there are so many opportunities out there but there’s no rush. Having said that, try to maintain some momentum to try and make sure people remember you and so as to maximise the impact of your efforts.
Tadeusz:It’s crucial to approach people like human beings, personally, emotionally and without pushing anything. Give to get even if it’s just attention and appreciation. “Dear Sir/Madam” mass mailings are not blogger outreach, they are SPAM.
To achieve this you have to do research first: Who is this person, what does s/he like? Why do you think would that person link out to you or write about you? Often just browsing the blog and reading a few posts may already suffice. You don’t need to stalk either.
Rae: The single most important lesson I ever learned about outreach – and probably the hardest one – was brevity. Be brutal with your form letter, if you use one. Chop it down! Be concise, skip the life story, skip the campaign goals, and for Pete’s sake, please don’t copy your about page. There really is something to the term “short and sweet.” Maybe not Twitter-short, and this may vary a little depending on your vertical, but one paragraph is most likely all you need. If you absolutely must lengthen your email, use bullet points to make your information as quick of a read as possible. (Obviously this was a tough lesson for me to learn – I just wrote seven sentences about it.)
Jason: Start with your own territory, your product, content, brand, story or whatever it is that you’ll want your target prospects to see, because it will be easier to scale things up once you’re sure that you are promoting something really worth promoting.
Wayne: Persevere and don’t get disillusioned – you will get rejections, you will get ignored, you will get the odd email that accuses you of being a spamming weirdo. Don’t take anything personal and keep on trucking…
Link Building by Blogger Outreach by Paddy Moogan
Practical Guide to Blogger Outreach (SlideShare) by Yomego
Blah at Best: Not-for-Bedtime Blogger Outreach Horror Stories by Nicola Balkind
I think you’ll agree this post has provided you with a lot of great ideas to help you get started and improve the impact of your blogger outreach campaigns.
TL;DR – A bunch of great marketers give top class advice on utilising Blogger Outreach as part of your Link Building and Online PR strategy.
What other suggestions would you add to this great blogger outreach advice? What has been your experiences of utilising blogger outreach for your campaigns? I’d love to share some experiences (Good/Bad) in the comments below.